Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans (121-116) refuse to go down. They gutted out a 121-116 win last night on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers to claim their ninth straight victory. Davis suffered an injury scare in the first half of that game but returned in the second half to produce yet another terrific game. He finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. Jrue Holiday struggled with his shot as he went just 7-of-22, but he did add a season-high 17 assists to his 19 points. Rajon Rondo also continued his strong play of late with 13 points and nine assists.
They now face the Sacramento Kings (20-44), who picked up a second win in two home games against a New York-based team as they edged out the Knicks, 102-99. Rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic had another strong game with 22 points and seven assists to lead seven Kings in double figures. With Zach Randolph once again sitting out, Skal Labissiere had 14 points, six rebounds, and three blocks in a team-high 34 minutes. Kosta Koufos also continued to fill in for Willie Cauley-Stein, who remains out with a back problem.
Three keys to the game
Anthony Davis’ availability – Davis needed X-rays taken at halftime after suffering a rib contusion, but with their playoff hopes on the line, he pushed through the pain to lead the Pelicans to victory in LA. Davis remains a slight question mark to play against Sacramento. But with the Pelicans in need of every win they can get, it won’t be a surprise if Davis elects to suit up. And if he does play, he will most likely dominate.
Kings frontcourt – Randolph is being kept out of games recently as the Kings are stealthily trying to tank their way to a top draft pick. But with Skal Labissiere questionable with a knee injury, Z-Bo could find himself back in the starting lineup. That won’t be the worst thing in the world for the Kings’ chances of winning given how well the veteran big man has done against them this season.
Shooting guard play – Holiday has been nothing short of amazing for the Pelicans this season as he’s stepped up to the plate as Davis’ wingman in the absence of DeMarcus Cousins. Bogdanovic has made a similar leap in Sacramento. Apart from his scoring, he’s also taken up a bigger role in terms of playmaking to provide the Kings some much-needed offensive production. Bogdanovic, as well as former Pelican Buddy Hield, will need to join forces and outproduce Holiday for the Kings to snatch an upset.
Matchup to watch
Rajon Rondo vs De’Aaron Fox – Rondo has been pretty reliable lately, putting up 12.4 points and 11.0 assists over his last five games. He’d love to keep up that fine play against his old team tonight. It’ll be up to Kings rookie De’Aaron Fox to prevent that from happening, though. Apart from that, Fox must look to capitalize on the veteran’s iffy defense and return to his aggressive ways following a tame ten-point effort against the Knicks.
Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG – Rajon Rondo | SG – Jrue Holiday | SF – E’Twaun Moore | PF – Anthony Davis | C – Emeka Okafor
Kings projected starting lineup
PG – De’Aaron Fox | SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF – Justin Jackson | PF – Skal Labissiere | C – Kosta Koufos
Injury or no injury, Davis remains a formidable fantasy option and even more so against the Kings. But if he sits out, Holiday instantly becomes a must start. Jrue is already putting up terrific numbers with Davis – 26.0 points, 8.0 assists, and 4.4 rebounds on 52 percent shooting – and they could get a bit higher with the added usage.
Meanwhile, Bogdanovic feels like the safest play in Sacramento’s lineup in the event that Z-Bo doesn’t play. The rookie is averaging 17 points and four assists in his last five games, numbers he could easily reach given the Pelicans’ iffy wing defense. But if Randolph does play, he’s definitely worth a look. He’s put up 24.7 points and 11.3 boards in three meetings against the Pels this season.
If Davis plays, it’s hard not to see the Pelicans winning this game. They just seem so determined to get to the postseason and a matchup against a Kings team with little to play for should result in another victory, even if it’s on the second night of a back-to-back. Take New Orleans to win and cover as 5.5-point road favorites.
The Pelicans take it to ten straight wins with a 109-101 road win.
This game will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and Fox Sports New Orleans. Tip-off is at 10:00 pm Eastern.
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